Talent Pool Asia - Digitalisation: Connecting Multicultural Teams across Germany and Asia

This year's event of the conference series "Talent Pool Asia" organised by the OAV and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce tackled one of the future's most important topics - digitalisation. Held at the Hamburg subsidiary of one of the most successful digital giants Google Inc., representatives from the economy, science and government exchanged their views about how digitalisation influences HR processes in the Asian context at the conference on 24 March 2017.

In the era of digitalisation, the whole working environment is undergoing major changes. Old structures and processes are challenged and newly defined. Multicultural teams work together across continents facing physical and cultural boundaries. It is creating a multitude of new opportunities for German companies to make use of the vast “Talent Pool Asia”.

On the day of the event, Mr Frank Kohl-Boas, Google Germany GmbH, and the OAV Chairman Mr Hans-Georg Frey, Jungheinrich AG, welcomed the participants at the impressive premises of Google Germany GmbH. Both speakers emphasised the importance of digitalisation in our daily life, especially the change it brings to our working environment. One trend certainly is the growing importance of cross-linked thinking as a team between all branches of one company. This will create new opportunities for German companies to integrate numerous Asian talents into their workforce and close their existing skill gaps.

The Honourable State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak MP, ICT Division, Ministry of Post, Telecommunications & Information Technology of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh started the main programme with his presentation on the topic "Digitalisation in Bangladesh - Government’s perspective". The Honourable State Minister presented four pillars of the government’s programme Digital Bangladesh that they have identified – digital government, connecting citizens, HR development and IT industry promotion. Based on these pillars, Digital Bangladesh aims

  • to achieve 90 per cent vital services delivered electronically,
  • to connect 90 per cent of the citizens to the Internet,
  • to create around two million workplaces in the ICT sector and
  • to increase industrial exports to five billion USD

- all points by 2021. Digital Bangladesh has improved the standard of living in the country. Every month six million citizens are using more than 100 e-Services like birth and death registrations, land records, public exam results, government forms, financial services, etc. of these centres. Investors do also gain as, for example, Bangladesh is giving 100 per cent tax exemption for IT/ITeS companies. Furthermore, twelve years tax exemption is offered to IT park developers and duty free import of capital assets is to be established in those parks.

Mr Kohl-Boas continued the programme by introducing how Google attracts German and Asian talents in the future workplace. Based on an inspiring presentation, Mr Kohl-Boas immersed the participants into the Google world in which they encourage their employees to spend 20 per cent of their time working on what they think will most benefit the company. By doing so, Google  empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Communication is the keyword at Google.

Google has even questioned the necessity of managers. Is it possible to run a business with a totally flat hierarchy? They experimented. However, as the company grew, the founders realised that they cannot deal with all the questions such as expense reports or interpersonal conflicts by their own. Managers were needed and are needed in future developments as they also contribute in many other important ways e.g. by communicating strategy, facilitating collaboration as well as ensuring that processes and systems are aligned with company goals.

During the following panel discussion moderated by Ulrike Wieduwilt, Russell Reynolds Associates, the panellists Mr Kohl-Boas, Dr Prisca Brosi, Technical University of Munich, and Mr Andreas Kusch, avodaq AG, debated on the topic “How can digital working environments enhance talent recruitment from Asia for the German ‘Mittelstand’?”. They all agreed that digitalisation changes companies and the society enormously. However, most of the managers cannot properly assess the pressure to act and underestimate possible consequences of digital transformation. What they need to do is to create new leadership competences.

Furthermore, it is essential that companies define their corporate culture to succeed. Only with a proper definition managers will be able to recruit talents and integrate them into their workforce – in both the national and international context. An applicant at Google, for example, has four personal interviews with different managers. All managers need to agree on employing that candidate in the end. It is important to meet face to face. However, job interviews via video conference with Asia are not unavoidable.

German subsidiaries in Asia with local employees need to break the glass ceiling cultural differences create and act like a team within the entire company which is also an essential success factor. One of the most used quotes in that context is “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!”. It describes the importance of culture in developing the company’s strategy and hence the company’s future.

The conference was rounded off by a tour through the innovative Google office. Google’s interior design is globally well-known for its creativity and playful nature that foster the innovative mindset of Google’s employees, the “Googlers”. Initiated in 2013 by the OAV and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, the annual series of events “Talent Pool Asia” aims to expand the dialogue between Asian and German business leaders on strategies to overcome the global skills shortage. Previous events have addressed topics such as “Gender Diversity”, “Skill Development and Diversity Management” as well as “Training and Retention of the Next Generation”.

The event is conceptualised as an exchange and learning platform for CEOs, HR and diversity managers as well as entrepreneurs from Germany and Asia.








Barbara Schmidt- Ajayi
Regional Manager India / South Asia







Özgül Orhan
Project Manager